For fans of the Komets, it was a tired, frustrating narrative that played out again tonight. The Komets lost 5-1 to the rival Toledo Walleye, which feasted on Fort Wayne’s lackadaisical play with the puck in its own zone to take a four-goal lead in the second period.
For fans of the Walleye, it was another glorious night as their team improved to 8-0-0 against the Komets, who got a third-period power-play goal from Max Gottlieb on a shot from 50 feet out.
Fort Wayne tied a season high in shots, outshooting Toledo 46-28.
Fort Wayne may be 20-13-6 within the Central Division, but the 0-6-2 mark against second-place Toledo has it battling just to make the playoffs. The Komets, who are in third place, have 18 games remaining in the regular season with five remaining games against the Walleye (30-15-5).
Shawn St-Amant was back in the Fort Wayne lineup for the first time since Dec. 21. He’d missed 26 games, not including the ECHL All-Star Classic for which was chosen to participate, because of an upper-body injury and the Komets were 10-11-5 without him.
It was the first of the two “Pink the Rink” nights – the other is 7:30 p.m. Saturday against the Indy Fuel – in which the Komets and Vera Bradley Foundation are raising money for the fight against breast cancer. The Komets’ pink jerseys will be auctioned off Saturday and specially wrapped pucks are being sold to aid the charitable endeavor.
In front of 7,970 fans, the Komets held the Walleye without a shot during the first 12:48. The scoreless first period saw Fort Wayne goaltender Dylan Ferguson thwart Josh Kestner on a breakaway, and Toledo netminder Billy Christopoulos foil Stephan Baylis from point-blank range.
Kestner atoned with a goal to make it 1-0 at 5:05 of the second period, when he blasted the puck into an open net after Shane Berschbach’s shot had sailed wide and caromed off the boards behind the Fort Wayne net.
Fort Wayne’s lax play with the puck behind its own net set up Toledo’s Gregor MacLeod for a goal from just outside the crease at 14:08. Teammate Kyle Bonis scored on the next shot, 41 seconds later, on a one-timer from the left circle.
T.J. Hensick made it 4-0 by sneaking behind the defense, reeling in a pass from MacLeod and flicking a shot over Ferguson at 18:42.
Ferguson was pulled after the second period, having stopped 14 of 18 shots, and was replaced by Cole Kehler.
In the third period, Fort Wayne’s Mason Bergh fought Nolan Gluchowski, who got a penalty for instigating the fisticuffs.
Christopoulos stopped 45 shots and Kehler nine, allowing a late goal to Kestner
Notes: Bruce Boudreau, the father of Komets coach Ben Boudreau, was in attendance. He was recently fired as coach of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. … Before the game, the Komets were sent defenseman Brayden Pachal by the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, who called up forward Matthew Boudens. … Defenseman Adam Henry, who was signed Wednesday, made his Fort Wayne debut. … Kyle Haas served the first game of his two-game ECHL suspension for a fight with Kalamazoo’s Ben Wilson after the Komets’ 5-4 victory Wednesday. … The Komets also played without Chase Stewart, Brad Morrison, Will Petschenig and Patrick Munson. … The referee was Alex Garon.